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Clifton Suspension Bridge and Bristol

Living in Bristol

It is hard to capture a city of such grit and wit in words, with its unforgettable setting, floating harbour, iconic bridge, two universities, difficult history and, in the words of John Betjeman, ‘the handsomest suburb in Europe’: in our view, Bristol has it all. If Bath is the pretty, simpering younger sister, Bristol is her rebellious older non-binary sibling, staying out too late and mixing with the wrong crowd – and don’t we love it. 

The city grew up around a crossing point over the Avon and received a royal charter in 1155. Only a few of the city’s later medieval buildings survive, many were destroyed either by ferocious bombing during WW2 or subsequent town planners. Prosperity that came from the trade in slaves and tobacco resulted in fine buildings, charitable foundations (some educational) and civic wealth but also a shameful legacy that is still very much a live issue. Home to many born and bred there and who would never leave, Bristol has long attracted people from further west, from London and the south east, as well as good numbers from all over the world including the Caribbean, Somalia, the Indian sub-continent and Europe. 

English is not the sole language spoken on the streets, but to be a true Bristolian, adopted or otherwise, remember to say ‘Cheers, drive!’ to the bus driver as you alight at your stop. Clifton, with its village feel and Georgian and Victorian town houses, has long been the most desirable (and expensive) area, but Redland, Cotham and increasingly Southville and Totterdown are also attractive and a bit more affordable.

Education scene in Bristol

Local Education Authorities in Bristol
Bristol City Council

Bristol offers everything and anything, from sought-after state schools to ancient and distinguished independent day and boarding schools.  We’ve focused our attentions on five areas of Bristol popular with families and home to a range of good schools – Clifton, Redland, Henleaze, Bristol City Centre and Southville.

There are no grammar schools in Bristol, so all state secondaries – 22 in total (including two all-throughs), half of which record positive Progress 8 results - are non-selective comprehensives, albeit with tight catchments or admissions criteria for the more popular. Five of the city’s secondary schools finish at 16, their students moving on to one of the local sixth form schools and colleges (City of Bristol College, North Bristol Post 16 Centre, St Brendan's Sixth Form College) to complete their studies. All but one of the senior independents start at 11 years old, (the other at 13).

Places at the best of the city’s 119 state primary schools are almost as hotly contested and people move into their catchments, pushing house prices skywards. Some Bristol primary schools operate as separate infant and junior schools, although moving between them at seven years old is normally seamless.

There are a few single sex senior schools in Bristol. All girls’ options are limited to Redmaids’ High (as the name suggests) and Badminton in the private sector and Montpelier High in the state; for boys it’s the private Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. The Good Schools Guide publishes essential information on all Bristol schools and currently reviews 16 of the best alongside many more in the areas surrounding the city – get instant online access to the reviews now.

Looking for the best schools in Bristol? Our Education Consultants can help.

Every day, Good Schools Guide education consultants successfully help parents from all over the world find the best schools for their children. Our UK team is spread out across the country, each expert with their own specialist areas of knowledge. Our consultants in Bristol and the surrounding area are headed by Charlotte Obolensky. If you would like us to help you find a school place or are keen to know more about your family’s education options in Bristol, Charlotte or one of her team is ready to help. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch - [email protected].

Your thoughts on education in Bristol

Do you have experience of education in Bristol – or indeed elsewhere – that you would like to share with us? We depend on our network of parents and teachers to make sure the advice and information we publish is accurate, complete, relevant and up to date. Please write to us at [email protected].

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